Daniel Zhao, Senior Photographer

The School Choice Exposition, held virtually on Saturday, allowed parent attendees to  speak directly to school officials and educators from more than 20 New Haven magnet and charter schools.

For years, New Haven Public Schools has offered district families the ability to enroll their children into a neighborhood, magnet, interdistrict or charter school. According to the district’s magnet schools website, these options “are designed to foster racial, ethnic, and economic diversity among students,”  while allowing families to choose schools that “best fit their child’s academic needs.” At Saturday’s exposition, parents heard about the many school choices — from Sound School’s aquaculture-centered curriculum to Metropolitan Business Academy’s project-based learning model — they may consider for the 2022-23 school year application process. 

“We really are trying to promote four key concepts for all parents this year to help them sort of simplify the process,” Michele Bonanno, NHPS’ magnet school program coordinator said in reference to the four-step enrollment process, which consists of exploration, application, acceptance and registration processes.

The “exploration” phase opened on Jan. 29 with immersive, 360-degree digital tours of magnet and charter schools. Official applications for enrollment in the schools become available on the New Haven magnet schools’ website on Jan. 31 and will close on Feb. 28. The process is open to students who live in New Haven or surrounding Connecticut towns, though priority will be given to families living in neighborhood zones the school is in or students with siblings already enrolled.

Students applying to magnets rank schools according to preference. Applicants will be notified on Mar. 31 of their placements. Waitlisted students will remain on the waitlist until Oct. 1 for non-New Haven residents or Oct. 30 for city residents. From there, students will be enrolled in their neighborhood schools.

School-specific presentations given at the exposition informed parents of features and programs such as high school internship requirements as well as extracurricular opportunities. Some schools had former students speaking in breakout rooms to highlight their experiences. Jennifer Lopez, a former student at the Metropolitan Business Academy, shared her experiences at the school, especially during online schooling.

“A little anxiety [with regards to online school] is normal. But again, you know, Metro offers a lot of support,” Lopez said. “We have social work interns. So if you ever have that feeling of just needing to talk to someone or feeling some kind of anxiety, you can definitely go talk to one of them. Metro really does take mental health seriously.”  

Other presentations included questions from eighth graders across the district. When asked what a typical non-virtual day looked like, Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School Arts Director and Assistant Principal Amy Migliore said that “there never is a typical day” and listed numerous extracurricular offerings available such as sculpting and performance groups.

According to Bonanno, Pre-K enrollment significantly decreased in the last year. “Almost every family who appl[ied] to a magnet program last year was placed in a [Pre-K] which has never happened historically,” she said.

Bonanno added that the school is “doing a lot of outreach with the Early Childhood team” and emphasized to parents that “we have very safe environments in our schools.”

In a presentation given to the Board of Education last Monday regarding the exposition, Director of Instruction Abie Benitez raised accessibility concerns with the application process for magnet schools, particularly with online access among homeless families. Bonanno emphasized that the Office of School Choice is open to help families with online processes.

“If a family is not comfortable with the computer and filling out the application, they’re more than welcome to come down to our office,” said Marquelle Middleton, director of the Office of Choice & Enrollment. “We will assist them on the computer and we do have paper applications if necessary.”

New Haven Public Schools of Choice include 14 interdistrict magnet schools.

Jabez Choi is a first year in Pierson college covering education and youth services in New Haven. He is from Tacoma, WA and plans to major in English.